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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Entre drones américains et diktat du FMI

by Dominique Bari

Trapped Between US Drones and the Dictates of the IMF

Translated Saturday 15 January 2011, by Henry Crapo and reviewed by Cynthia McKennon

The nation of Pakistan is caught between an intensified US war and the demands of the IMF, which refuses to turn over the balance of a promised loan until the government applies the measures of economic rigor it has imposed. On such a terrain, religious radicalism is prospering.

Between the intensification of attacks by American drones, the rise of a radical islamist minority, prospering on the misery of the population, the corruption of the government, and the demands of the International Monetary Fund, Pakistan is crushed in a vise and drawn into dangerous turmoil. Far from paying attention to the roots of these evils, the "bosses" of Islamabad, who want to place their country at the center of a construction of the "anti-terrorist" war, do nothing but cause further destabilization.

Salvoes of Missiles over the Tribal Areas

Launched in 2004, the campaign of missile firings from American Predator and Reaper drones has intensified since the summer of 2008, and salvoes of missiles over the Pakistan tribal areas have become almost daily occurrences in recent months. They are supposed to be hitting the al-Qaida militants who have found refuge there with the aid of Pakistan Taliban, whose kamikaze fighters offer themselves in bombing incidents in the name of a war launched against the Pakistan authorities, in order to denounce their alliance with the United States. Nearly 4000 persons have thus been killed in three years. The most recent victim to date was the governor of the province of Punjab, assassinated on Tuesday. Salman Taseer, an influential member of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), had become a symbol of the resistance to the talibanization of his region.

Will the traditional political parties, be they the PPP or the Moslem League (PML-N) of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, the principal opposition group, know how to take their turn in attacking fundamentalism, and to set themselves up as a viable alternative to the extremists? The Pakistan press asked itself this yesterday, as the coalition government of Yousuf Raza Gilani broke up into pieces, smitten by the demands of the IMF. Exploiting the humanitarian disaster caused by the terrible floods this summer, the IMF refused to transfer to Pakistan the funds promised in 2008 in the form of a loan, as long as Islamabad has not applied the financial restrictions imposed by the IMF, which would even further reduce the earnings of the poorest people. In the meanwhile, even before the storms, one in four Pakistani, or about 45 million people, suffered from malnutrition.

 A Social Powder-Keg 

The beginning of last summer, Islamabad was supposed to receive 1.3 billion dollars, part of a total loan of 11.3 billion. The IMF delayed the date of transfer, letting topple the Pakistan economy already heavily affected, notably by the cost of food, and of cotton, vital for the textile industry, an important source of export revenue.

According to the article published on 8 September by the Pakistan daily newspaper Dawn, Dominique Strauss-Kahn had directly made it known that the IMF would not give one penny of the 2.6 billion accorded in 2008 so long as Pakistan had not effectively fulfilled its promise to apply the demanded reforms. Sitting on a social powder keg that can only profit the extremists, the Gilani government has put off as long as possible the application of these demanded austerity measures. The announcement of the increase in the value-added tax has given rise in recent days to the defection of ministers coming from the small parties allied to the PPP, in the coalition.

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